If you were a coach, which would you rather have—a consistently good player, or an occasionally great player? Or, similarly, if you were a boss, would you rather have an employee who only showed up to work a couple times a week, but was terrific when he came, or someone who was there everyday and was just good, but not quite great?
You might say that you’d prefer someone who is always great, naturally. Unfortunately, though, being consistently great at something of value is hard and people cannot simply decide to be great and then just do it. Being consistently good is the exception, not the rule. It takes elite discipline, focus, sacrifice of other goods, a willingness to learn and be corrected, and repeated practice.
If we are being honest with ourselves, I think most of us would say that we are not consistently great. And, for those who think they are great, there is probably good reason to be suspicious of their judgment. Some are tempted to throw in the towel and accept mediocrity, because they’ve occasionally tried to be great at something and come up short. I’ve had friends who have taken the mindset of “Why try something if you aren’t likely to be great at it?”
There are a couple good reasons. First, if we took that line of thinking with everything we weren’t naturally great at, nobody would ever become great at anything. Secondly, being good at something, even if you aren’t yet great, is still rewarding. It’s rewarding to improve at something and it’s rewarding to be good enough to contribute to a team becoming great. As anyone who has played a team sport can understand, a team can be great even if they do not have the best individual players. This is because individuals on a great team understand their roles and know how to work well with others; people who experience individual success and team success will often report more satisfaction with the team success because they have people with which to share the success.
Returning to our initial question, then, most would prefer to be consistently good, rather than occasionally great. This makes one dependable and it is something anyone can begin working toward immediately. Consistent goodness also comes with a better roundedness than occasional greatness. If you can be great, but only occasionally, that probably comes at the cost of a big letdown—you had a great day, so you let things slide the next day. Before you know it, the week is over and you’ve underperformed. But, it would be better to get to the place where these ups and downs are less extreme.
We can do that if we just commit to smaller changes that you can act on now, like a couple minutes of professional development, or disciplining yourself from distractions, etc. Keep in mind that consistency itself is a skill, see if you can be a more consistent family member and employee. Everyone around you will benefit!